AUGUSTA — The 2014 election is more than a year away, but U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-2nd District, has the edge to become the state’s next governor, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The survey by the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling reported that Michaud, a six-term congressman, was leading Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler. The independently commissioned poll surveyed 953 Maine voters and was assigned a 3.2 percentage-point margin of error.
The Democrat led LePage 39 percent to 35 percent, while Cutler had 18 percent and 9 percent were undecided.
Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a press statement that LePage could still win re-election. However, Cutler needed to pull more support from Michaud to broaden the governor’s path to victory. Debnam said Cutler, who finished a close second to LePage in 2010, was losing support.
The poll, done Aug. 23-25, reported an 8-point loss for Cutler since the firm last surveyed Maine in January. Michaud did not declare his interest in the Blaine House until June. He made his run official earlier this month.
Michaud, a rumored candidate in January, has seen a nine-point jump in support since making his run official, according to the poll.
The survey was taken during a tumultuous week for LePage, who was reported to have told attendees at a Republican fundraiser that President Obama “hates white people.” Still, the poll found that the governor’s approval rating of 39 percent is pretty much the same as it was when the firm surveyed the state in January.
Michaud’s favorability rating is 53 percent, according to the poll, while Cutler’s is split. Thirty-two percent of respondents have a favorable view of him, but 35 percent weren’t sure how they felt about him.
Among undecided voters, Le-Page had a 19 percent approval rating, compared to 50 percent for Michaud and 39 percent for Cutler.
LePage has denied his comments about Obama and race, but the poll found that 47 percent believe he made them, compared to 30 percent who don’t think he did.
Sixty-two percent of respondents believe that LePage causes Maine “national embarrassment,” including 88 percent of Democratic respondents, 60 of independents and 30 percent of Republicans.
LePage’s re-election campaign has long questioned the credibility of Public Policy Polling, describing it as a Democratic polling firm.
Last year The Wall Street Journal found that the firm was among the best in predicting outcomes in swing states during the presidential election. Former New York Times statistician Nate Silver had a similar assessment.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: